New Zealand hit by wild weather

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New Zealand fruit growers in the Central Otago and Tasman regions have been struck by severe weather with cherries among the main crops affected.

In the first few days of 2021 much of New Zealand’s South Island has been buffeted by storms bringing significant rainfall and flooding.

Central Otago, the country’s major cherry growing region, has felt the effects of the weather. Although growers were still assessing the damage to not only their fruit but their orchards, such significant rainfall is unlikely to leave any completely unscathed.

Jeremy Hiscock, owner of Panmure Orchards, told the Otago Daily Times after more than 36 hours of consistent rain the outlook for his cherries was not good.

«It’s tough to be a cherry grower. The rain is devastating for the whole region,” Hiscock said.

«We usually have a lot of heavy rain over a short period or a long period of light rain. This time we had both — a lot of rain over a long period.»

However, he said some varieties were more resistant to the rain than others, but a clearer picture would emerge by the end of the first week of the year.

This storm follows a similarly severe event in Tasman, to the north of the South Island on Boxing Day 2020.

In this case, hail caused massive damage to a range of different growers, in some cases wiping out crops, according to a report from Stuff.

Damien O’Connor, New Zealand’s minister of agriculture, said the government would provide support to growers who needed it.

“For some growers it’s been absolutely devastating, for some there’s been 100 per cent fruit loss. The challenge now is how to get those trees ready for next year,” O’Connor said.

Evan Heywood, board director of New Zealand Apples and Pears said about 50 per cent of the region’s gold kiwifruit had been ruined, while damage to apples varied.

“In the greater Motueka area through to Lower Moutere, there’s not a lot of good fruit left – and that’s the heart of apple growing in this district,” Heywood said.